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Female airman killed in Iraq had Jewish roots

David Jacobson is comforted following the burial of his daughter, Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Nicole Jacobson of Riviera Beach at services at Forest Lawn in Pompano Beach on Oct. 9. (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

David Jacobson is comforted following the burial of his daughter, Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Nicole Jacobson of Riviera Beach at services at Forest Lawn in Pompano Beach on Oct. 9. (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

HOLLYWOOD, Fla., Oct. 12 (JTA) — Elizabeth Nicole Jacobson, 21, loved Spongebob Squarepants, craved the smell of cut grass and wanted to have two children named Hunter and Austin. So begins the Palm Beach Post obituary for the woman believed to be the first female U.S. airman killed in the line of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to a news release from Goodfellow Air Force Base, Jacobson was on duty on Sept. 28 providing convoy security, and was killed when her vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. At her funeral in Pompano Beach, Fla., on Sunday, her father David Jacobson, who lives in California, spoke of his last conversation with Elizabeth, three days before her death. She had called him in tears from Kuwait; during the drive from Iraq, a dog ran in front of her vehicle and was killed. “She felt horrible,” he said — even in a combat zone. Five years ago, David Jacobson began practicing as an Orthodox Jew; a few years later his father, Allan, who did not even know that he was Jewish until the age of 9, began to explore Orthodoxy as well. “Her mother wasn’t Jewish, so she wasn’t Jewish,” said Allan Jacobson of his granddaughter. “But she believed that if her father had determined” that a traditional Jewish life “was for him, it must be the right thing.” Jacobson had “Jewish” stamped on her dog tags, and her father and grandfather both believed that she intended to convert to Judaism upon her return from Iraq. “Elizabeth witnessed my transformation from a completely nonobservant, secular Jew, to what I am today,” said David Jacobson. “She was part of that, and it affected her.” The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 motivated Jacobson, an 11th-grader when the terror attacks occurred, to join the military. “I told her over two years ago that enlisting after 9-11 meant she would definitely see combat,” David Jacobson recalls. “She said she was prepared for that. She believed that being there [in Iraq] meant not fighting them here. At the funeral, fellow officers presented her father and mother, Marianne Earheart of California with American flags. Her family also received her Bronze Star and Purple Heart. “She was an outstanding airman who accepted all challenges and responsibilities without wavering,” said Colonel Scott Bethel, 17th Training Wing commander. “She was the spark plug that made the squadron go.” A written statement from the family expressed how proud they were of her. “Elizabeth made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and the cause of freedom.” “Elizabeth knew that by fighting in Iraq, she was in effect protecting Israel,” her father told the Florida Jewish News. “She was very proud of that.”

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